- As Ski Goes – Last season I wrote four different defenses of Askia Booker and what he means to the Colorado Buffaloes. I suppose it goes without saying that I’m a fan. Most certainly a proponent. My friend and yours, Will Whelan, does a great job here of telling more of that same story. Booker is beyond integral to this program and most certainly in a season like this where there are so many questions to be answered. Booker is going to be a big part of those answers.
- Should You See it? A Curious Consumer’s Decision-Making Guide to ‘Interstellar’ - It was described to me as a combination of Inception and Gravity. I’m going to see it tonight. Also, is “Should You See It?” a regular piece on Grantland?
- USC Men’s Basketball: Young and Hungry – I don’t think we’re going to hear a ton about the USC team this season. I foresee them making fireworks once or twice but they’ll likely be deep into the latter half of the conference standings. All of that said, I really liked this preview from Neon Tommy and wanted everyone to familiarize with the Galen Dunk Center. Plus, it’s Monday morning and do you really need a heavy piece right now?
- Pac-12 Networks announces talent assignments for “Full Court Friday” November 14 – This means that everything is getting real. Or at least a whole lot real-er. The talent we want to see was announced a long time ago (schedule release if you need a reminder of what I’m referencing) but just in case you got lost amidst college football voting shows, Madison Bumgarner hyperbole, or my birthday, the season starts next Friday. Your team will bounce a ball and it’s going to count against (or for) their record.
- Gregg Doyel on Tom Crean: It’s Not Personal – It seems it is because Doyel is new to the Indy Star and has already inked a few ‘Creans gotta go‘ articles. If you haven’t followed the IU incidents outside of their on court success (or otherwise), there have been a number of underage alcohol related events including one drunk teammate hitting another drunk teammate with a car. Doyel called it an epidemic. This relates to Pac-12 basketball. What if Doyel’s right and Crean is gone? He gets fired and then, let’s just say, UCLA has a solid season. They make the tournament and maybe even the second weekend. That’d be great for Westwood. But now Steve Alford’s alma mater has a vacancy and Alford has some high major success under his belt. Just some food for November thought.
- Why the etiquette of college basketball hiring and firing has changed – I thought this would be great placement for this piece considering the above blurb on complete and irresponsible speculation. It’s a storyline? Whatever the case, Nicole Auerbach outlines how and why coaching hunts have changed from a courtesy call to an Athletic Director to tracking speculative flights. I’ve heard stories about body doubles. But it also raises the question of how do you discuss big news? Is it through traditional communication means? The way we interact with one another is evolving and so too are the acceptable means to convey varying messages varying in significance. Tweet me your thoughts and I’ll facebook message ya back.
- Zach Clark and I discuss Arizona Hoops - Let’s start a campaign to get ESPN Tucson onto streaming. I dunno how we start this. Do we start a petition? Storm the studios? Let’s not get carried away but maybe the people demand PacHoops?
Below you will find my submission to the Rush The Court Pac-12 All-Conference Voting. I’m not sold on this being a great Pac-12 but it isn’t 2012, either. Furthermore, run through that list of All-Conference performers. There’s plenty of heat in there. I had to keep Askia Booker, Shaq McKissic, Brandon Taylor, Andrew Andrews, Xavier Johnson, David Kravish, and other quality ball players off of that list. Nevertheless, here’s how I see things shaking out.
Wanna talk about it? COME AT ME BRO!!!!! [twitter link]
- Cal’s Cuonzo Martin product of tough environment - And it shows. Well, I gathered as much in just a morning with the man but in what little interactions we had (he was leaving the kitchen as I was entering and he shook the two hands in front of me and then we awkwardly looked at each other and just carried on) the man carries that toughness. Repeatedly he discussed being comfortable while uncomfortable and getting outside of one’s comfort zone. He wants his team going hard at all times. Here’s why.
- Tim Miles denied position with Nebraska student group after humorous application – This is gold, utter gold, and reminds me of this blog post from Minnesota’s Richard Pitino. Always love it when coaches not only break the barrier, but do so in a human way.
- College basketball’s only ‘homeless’ team finds humor in misfortune – They say you’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself and this squad has mastered just that. They’ll be stronger and better and – in a completely unrelated note – I’ve really enjoyed the off-the-beaten-path stories Eisenberg has been sharing in the lead to this season. Really good stuff.
In 2012, Ben Howland landed the best recruiting class in the nation. His program had been floundering but that year he amassed what appeared to be his most talented Westwood team in awhile. One of the concerns, however, was that this team wouldn’t have the traditional Howland characteristics of toughness and defense. These traits have been both quantified and qualified but as a reminder, up until 2012, Howland teams were averaging a 65.8 adjusted tempo (this includes two Pitt seasons) and relentless defense. Until 2012 – and excluding the 2005 anomaly of a 70 AdjT – Howland rarely wavered off of that pace. The variance across tempos, again excluding the 2007 anomaly, was just 1.43. Variance, as a reminder, is a calculation of how far a set of numbers is spread out. It allows us to recognize how fickle a quantified act can be. A smaller number suggests a pretty consistent set of data. A bigger number, conversely, alerts us to a dataset with a great amount of fluctuation.
Howland’s 2012 Bruins would play to a 69.2 adjusted tempo, 5% greater than his average career tempo (including 2005). He significantly deviated from how he’d previously been successful. Three days after the season ended, Ben Howland was fired.
Why Look at This?
I understand that there are a lot of factors that come into a firing. The 2012 Bruins actually won the conference title. They earned a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. Howland was fired nevertheless. While that maybe isn’t directly correlated to adjusted tempo, it would seem that a consistent pace might be a good indicator of prolonged success. A coach presumably gets his job (particularly in the Pac-12) because he has amassed success. He’s probably good at coaching a style he’s become an expert in and gets his players to buy into that style, that system.
Howland’s career tempo variance (including 2005) is 3.9. Need context? Me too. So I found the career variance for every active coach in the Pac-12:
This suggests that Howland was about the median amongst current Pac-12 coaches. Of course none of these men have been fired, so it seems there isn’t a great deal to take away from this regarding the understanding of whether varying from one’s career tempo foretells anything about job security.
The above data will come into play as we monitor the 2014-15 season. Will Krystokowiak begin to normalize as his plan comes into effect? He’s had so little talent at times in Utah that he probably hasn’t been able to dictate tempo. The rest of the Pac dictated Utah’s pace. I predict this season will look a lot more like what a K team wants to be. Will Sendek continue to push the gas pedal? He’s notably played both sides of the continuum. Thus high variance. What’s Ernie’s plan? More to come.
The hypothesis is that greatly deviating from one’s established norm is indicative of a hot seat (if not an already fired man). A desperate times call for desperate measures type theory. So I developed a list of fired Pac-12 coaches and some other notable leads who were relieved of their duties. Here’s what I found:
|Coach||Variance||% dev. In fired year|
|Ben Braun||4.5||5.1* / 3.3**|
|Mike Davis||4.5||3.8^ / 4.9^^|
- Average Variance: 5.8
- Average % Change in final season vs. average season: 4.5%
- *Fired at Cal, **Fired at Rice
- ^Fired at IU, ^^Fired at UAB
The major variance culprits were Ken Bone and Seth Greenberg. Each of their last teams played greater than 6% differently (based on AdjT) than their respective career averages. In both cases it was the coach’s slowest team.
Ben Braun significantly deviated from his average tempo, 66, prior to being fired, too. But what I found interesting here was that in each of his final seasons, he tried both extremes: 69.5 in his last season at Cal was the fastest team he’s ever coached, 63.9 at Rice was the second slowest. Mike Davis tried the same extremes in his final campaigns in Bloomington and Birmingham, respectively. Desperate times, desperate measures.
I’d like to reiterate that this is far from an exact science. I’ve already cited Ben Howland’s fastest season, 2005. It was his first dance with UCLA before reverting to his norm and rattling off three straight Final Fours. Clearly, he was not fired after losing to Texas Tech in the 2005 tournament.
The Big-ish Takeaway
But this is an interesting exercise in understanding what makes a given coach good at what he does. So often we’re thrown coach speak about ‘staying the course’ and ‘respecting the process,’ practices I don’t disagree with. It’s therefore interesting to me the times these guys do deviate from what seems to be their course; the paths that made them successful to this point. So while I’m not necessarily saying that a change of pace is indicative of a coach’s impending fall from grace, I do think it can be a telling sign.
Which might draw our attention to the warmer seats in this year’s conference, namely Lorenzo Romar. For the record, I think his job is relatively secure. He’s garnered enough good juju to weather the storm he’s in. But three straight seasons of decreasing win totals isn’t exactly deserving a vote of confidence. He’s had one of the higher degrees of tempo variance amongst current Pac-12 coaches (7.58) and had never coached a Washington team to a sub-70 tempo until…the last three seasons when we’ve seen the bottom begin to fall out. Two seasons ago was the slowest UW team he’s ever coached (65.7). He survived that turn and KenPom actually projects the Huskies at a 70.5 AdjT this season. Further, he’s got the forthcoming recruiting classes and so I reiterate, Romar has banked some good merit in the Athletic Department. He’s coached an NCAA one-seed. But if he’d never had that success, it’s easy to imagine his slowest team and their 17-15 record earning him a pink slip.
We could ask Ken Bone about it. He’s now an assistant at Montana after coaching Washington State to a 10-21 record at the second slowest pace he’s ever coached. They were 6.2% slower than the average Ken Bone team. It’s also worth noting here (with reverence to Romar’s 2014 Huskies) that last season was a historically fast paced season. Examine this KPI spreadsheet for more. Scoring was up at to a four-year high. Rules changes behooved the fast and I looked into it, too. Which is all to say that Bone likely was playing at an even slower pace than what was calculated. Rules changes helped his offense. Just as it did Romar and any other coach flirting with a style change last year. Of course, these trends suggest that speeding up your offense, forcing the defense to make a play and thus more likely to commit a foul (FTA/game was up 13% vs. 2013). Alas, that’s not the strategic changes these men chose to make. It may have cost Ken Bone his job.
Of course Bone also had the highest variance of any coach studied, perhaps giving merit to the idea that it’s really tough to get talent to Pullman. And which also begs the question of whether or not there is a correlation between winning and tempo variance (we’ll examine that next and take into consideration the rules changes with their affect on tempo).
It can’t go overstated that this is not an exact science. A slowing or accelerated tempo doesn’t necessarily mean the axe is coming. But it just might be the Blue Mountains on a Coors Light: an indicator that a shitty beer is trying just a little harder to be less bad.
(I still enjoy a tailgating with a CL).
- The Art of Not Working At Work – No comment.
- Basketball version of ‘The Drive’ a positive for UA, Athletic Director Greg Byrne says – I mean, color me excited to watch. But fear not, many – if not all – programs will be featured. The thing about these kinds of shows isn’t that they provide that in-depth of a look, but rather the production value. I find that these shows have been put together really well. They tell a nice story. And maybe I’m blurring the lines behind going behind the lines and production, but the interations of such shows have all been quite enjoyable (namely: HBO’s 24/7, Hard Knocks, and the P12N’s The Drive)
- Brandon Ashley is over the hurt – I found this to be a surprisingly insightful and open article about Ashley’s recovery from injury. I spoke with him and he didn’t give me nearly this much introspection. I’m also not a terrific asker of questions. Perhaps Medcalf is. Whatever the case, this is a well done one.
- ‘OMG. You’re so much more than awesome.” – This is the perfect story. It’s got the father-son baseball narrative to which I had to hold back tears on a Brooklyn bound train. Secondly, it’s got a parent text message in which a grown man living in rural Carolina who built the house he raised his bad ass son in writes “OMG.” Madison Bumgarner is the sports god du jour and that’s ok. This story just further humanizes him and probably strikes a chord close to your own heart.
- Why an obscure DIII team can offer a blueprint for Kentucky – I’m very curious to see how this works. I don’t know how you feel about Calipari but I kind of love him. He’s such a great quote and I love how he frames this as doing what’s best for the kids. He’s dynamite behind the mic. But in all seriousness, PR and whatever aside, this is an interesting concept. Forty minutes of hell could be…hell. Particularly when we consider Kentucky’s talent.
- On Kindness – I don’t know Cord Jefferson but we both grew up in Tucson and have that as common ground. I appreciate his perspective on different things and in this case he effuses on kindness. And on his mother. We’ve previously linked to a lot of father-son tales but here Cord really captures the story of his mother. It’s a good one.
- The Worldwide Cheerleader: ESPN and the College Football Playoff – Some very interesting food for thought especially for what I presume is a significant Pac-12 readership (clicking from here, that is). We’ve heard so much of the SEC hype and this spicy article begins to quantify that.
- Ranking the top teams in college basketball: 351 – 1 - Just read the logic behind what these two have developed in projecting this season. It’s a fascinating piece of work that Hanner and Winn have conspired to build here and I’m interested to see what the model spat out as our 2015 season. That said, I’m even further excited to be in New York City this weekend. And I’m even further excited that the season begins in two weeks.
- Being Bill Murray - His son, Luke, was a member of the Arizona staff for a short while. The Murrays hail from Illinois and I remember Bill being shown on TV, in attendance at the fateful 2005 Elite Eight. He was most certainly in an Illini hat. I don’t begrudge him that. I still hate that game, however. Anyhow, Murray attended a handful of games in Tucson and would wear a single, Arizona “A” eye black strip when in attendance. He’d don a visor as he was probably fresh off the golf course. I don’t have a story like the many noted in this article, but I wish I did.
I couldn’t do it. I’ve previewed eleven of the twelve teams in this conference but I knew that I couldn’t preview the Arizona Wildcats without egregious, alienating amounts of bias. I mean, I could do it, I’m just not sure you’d want me to. In a season like this I had to step back for fear of alienating you, my friends. So I asked – well – my friends to preview the Wildcats for us! Section by section, fellow interneters and real-life friends preview the 2014-15 Arizona Wildcats. The World According to You:
What exactly is a Giant Death Robot? Well, it’s the apex predator of the Civilization word of Sid Meier, a hulking killing machine noted for being ‘a towering mass of guns, rockets and futuristic death-rays.’ It’s also my pet name for the 2013-14 Arizona Wildcats. Considering how badly they thrashed my Buffs in three meetings, I’m possibly biased by circumstance, but that bunch certainly was a writhing machine of death for many of their opponents. The whole melange of destruction was based on a ferocious defense that stood as one of the best I’ve ever witnessed in person. They would expel all their energy by the Elite Eight, falling in overtime to Wisconsin, but I don’t necessarily hold that against them. Last season’s Tournament was especially bonkers, and Frank Kaminsky was born to give them fits. C’est la vie.
The trick then becomes, how does Sean Miller and crew reform the GDR after losing probably their two best players in consensus All-American Nick Johnson and athletic wunderkind Aaron Gordon? *laughs* Just kidding, there’s no trick, it’s just the typical tango of some elite returners and a top-5 recruiting class. I guess that’s life at the top…
Why Brad Loves Them (friend of the program):
I’ll leave that to Stanley Johnson:
“I love to win; that’s why I came to school here. I thought we have the tools to win and the people that are here love to win as well. I think winning is an attribute. It’s a mentality and it comes with competitiveness.”
He’s right. For his part, Johnson is the reigning California Mr. Basketball (succeeding Aaron Gordon) and has won 70 straight high school games. As for “the people that are here,” they won 33 games last year and lost just 5 – by a combined 12 points. Maybe a coincidence, but they didn’t lose a game until they they lost Brandon Ashley to injury – he was averaging 12 points a game. Arizona is starting three McDonald’s All-Americans. The other two have seven years of experience and 13 feet between them. Of those one was a Cousy Award finalist (best collegiate PG) as a junior, and the other is a 7-foot center who averaged 9 and 6 last year (in just 28 minutes). For depth, Arizona will sprinkle in a bench with another seven footer, a 39% 3-point shooter (and another one that might be better), a five-star PG, and the top JuCo player in the country. So, why do I love them? Because they’re climbin’ a ladder in Lucas Oil. Besides, I’m not the only one:
I see you Rondae #ShoulderShimmythempeoples
— Kevin Durant (@KDTrey5) March 24, 2014
So, obviously there is a lot to like about this team. But my job isn’t to tell you why the Wildcats are so good. Adam can do that, or any number of the preseason publications can. I have been called upon to nitpick this team, and so I will direct you to their backcourt. Sure, it is a talented one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is one of the top groups of guards in the country towards the end of the year. But there are also a lot of fresh faces, and I’m not sure if the group will gel enough in time to perform at peak potential early on in the season when Arizona has to play against teams like Gonzaga, Michigan, or any number of the quality opponents out at the Maui Invitational. To be honest, I would rather have a duo of Askia Booker and Xavier Johnson to navigate my team through that challenging non-conference slate. That combo is the elite, experienced mix of players I want running my offense.
- “Tookie” Williams
Here is where I make my triumphant return to preview. I wanted to keep it brief and poignant. It’s me again.
Mountain High (best possible season):
Win their last six games and finish ninth in the Western Conference, 1.5 games out of the eight seed.
Rock Bottom (worst possible season):
You might not love it when your girlfriend, best friend, or really anyone around you over-plans. When they’ve buttoned up the schedule with everything dotted and crossed and you don’t have to do a thing but show up. It can sort of ruin the adventure. Larry Krystkowiak is not an adventurer. He took over this Utah program with a plan, a vision, for how he would build it up. He stuck to that plan and it’s now expected to pay off. Which is, of course, all a part of his plan. Look at the scheduling since he took over. The Utes played teams nicknamed the GeoDucks and a religious school out of San Diego which should be taken about as seriously as Hogwarts. We ripped them for their SoS while Larry K just stayed the course. And then last year happened and heads turned. Larry K has a plan, you guys. He scheduled the GeoDucks because that’s what his team could bear. Now? This year he’s taking his team to San Diego State, BYU, Las Vegas and Kansas. Delon Wright might be the best player in America if you listen to this guy and they have a crop of incoming kids that are not only good but local; a sign of sustainable and forthcoming success. And it’s all a part of the plan.
Why I Love Them: